Written by Chris Covert exclusively for SouthFront
As memory of the battle for Logvinovo fades into the background, two analysis have emerged, one Ukrainian and one rebel, which reaffirm the recent Ukrainian strategy of using short sharp attacks on rebel positions followed by short advances of forces.
Russian blogger Chervonets Andryuha, writing in his Live Journal account references the two analyses characterizing the new Ukrainian tactic as a “creeping offensive”, which uses weak points in the rebels’ deployment and informal, but established neutral zones — which the rebels call grey zones — to advance their lines further into rebel territory. It should be noted that, to date, the new creeping offensive tactic has been used twice since its inception, the latest in Logvinovka, and the first time in Yasinovataya last March. Of the two, only the Yasinovataya attack has been a qualified success.
The first analysis appeared in lenta.ru, authored by Alexei Sanin, who wrote that, unlike earlier reports which identified one Ukrainian combat formation – Ukrainian 54th Separate Mechanized Brigade – parts of two Ukrainian combat formations, the 54th and the Ukrainian 58th Separate Mechanized Brigade, were involved on the attack on Logvinovo. Sanin writes in his article that both sides leave considerable reserves well to the rear of the line of contact, and these two brigades were no different.
The Ukrainian 58th Brigade had spent six months undergoing training by unidentified NATO advisers before moving into Artemovsk, which is a command and logistics node for Ukrainian operations in the region. That training would some importance in the battle at Logvinovo.
Rebel forces in the form of spearheads, parts of the 1st Army Corps, 7th Brigade were deployed dug in at several locations to the north of Logvinovo, where heights looking south towards Debaltsevo are, with their main force camped out in Debaltsevo as a mobile reserve. According to Sanin, significant rebel forces also were deployed to the flanks of the Logvinovo position, specifically at Lozovoy, Sanzharovki and Kalinovka.
The Ukrainian attack took place at dawn on June 29th, and involved parts of four rifle companies, a reinforced rifle group from the 25th battalion, and two more rifle companies of the 54th brigade, and one rifle company from the 58th Brigade. The attack hit five locations spread out along the front, the weakest being a roadblock north of Logvinovo. Although casualty figures are not available, Sanin said that the rebels did suffer losses at the Logvinovo roadblock location, and the group was forced to withdraw with losses. Sanin notes that Ukrainian forces suffered losses at the battle, but to date, figures have not been released by the Ukrainian ministry of defense.
Rebel positions northwest of Logvinovo, however, did not buckle and held firm against Ukrainian attacks, according to Sanin. When Ukrainian commanders came to the realization that rebel forces were not going to budge, Ukrainian artillery fire began. The same thing took place at Sanzharovki and Kalinovka. Rebel forces refused to withdraw, so Ukrainian tactical commanders decided to try to isolate rebel positions, presumably by going around those positions.
Ukrainian reserves of the two brigades were in Artemovsk, and despite the fact that forces near Logvinovo, Sanzharovki Kalinovka were becoming bogged down in the fighting, most of those reserves stayed put. After advancing about 4.5 kilometers south and failing to gain most of their main objectives, the Ukrainian offensive stopped.
Sanin said that two objectives the Ukrainians did take, which were significant advances into the neutral zone at the line of contact. Two heights, about three kilometers from Uglegorsk, actions which Sanin characterized as serious, but not enough to permit an attack into Debaltsevo, which was the Ukrainian main, eventual objective. The requirement for the Ukrainians was to take all objectives to presumably help with a subsequent operation that would move Ukrainian forces into Debaltsevo.
Sanin concludes in describing the tactical battles, that failing to commit reserves into battle cost the Ukrainian forces enough that the whole operation collapsed. By noon, the attack had stopped cold. At 1400 hrs Ukrainian commanders called in a tank company to help out with their big guns. It was then Ukrainian artillery began to fall on the area, but this time to cover withdrawing forces.
Sanin goes on to suggest that the reason for the attack was to provoke rebel commanders into a counterattack, to draw rebel riflemen into open ground and attack them with artillery. He also suggests that the tactics being taught by NATO advisers were to avoid close combat with rebel forces and use what NATO calls stand off weaponry, artillery and tank gun fire to achieve local tactical successes.
Sanin says in his article that Ukrainian forces did not expect such stiff resistance from rebel forces. Because of rebel forces holding their positions and their counterfire, the Ukrainian tactical groups remained in their positions until almost 2000 hrs, before withdrawing north.
Ukrainian Analysis on the Debaltsevo Operation
Ukrainian military journalist Dmitry Tymchuk published a much shorter analysis at his http://sprotyv.info/ blog, in which he said that a successful attack on Debaltsevo could conceivably shift momentum in the Ukrainian’s favor. [TIP: Tymchuk is a pro-Kiev source with a high level of disinformation in reports]
A successful attack on Debaltsevo would seemingly be the coup the Ukrainians needed to shift momentum in their favor in the war. Debaltsevo is a major rail/road node which allows its owner to shift forces and supplies in most directions. Ukrainian forces sat on Debaltsevo after a failed offensive in August of 2014, but were destroyed by the rebel defensive operation in February, 2015. In the seven months between then and the rebel operation, Ukrainian forces did little more than just sit on the location. They had a rather long front to hold in addition to the town itself, which drained forces and supplies into the region. Ukrainian did not have the advantage of owning many of the roads leading into Debaltsevo, the way rebel forces do now.
However, it also should be noted that even though the rebels have a favorable geographical advantage in owning Debaltsevo, any presumed advantages have not materialized since. The rebel defensive operation to take Debaltsevo took place 18 months ago, and despite a better tactical situation in the 18 months since then, rebel commanders had done little more than the Ukrainians did before that.
In his analysis, Tymchuk admits the Ukrainian’s new tactic of wedging forces into neutral zones as a means of pushing rebel forces south. He notes, darkly that the June 29th attack “it did not cause delight in [rebel commanders].”
Tymchuk said that rebel forces’ use of fire groups, such as tank and mortars, or BMP and mortars, were used as “fire raids” to try to give rebel an advantage in advancing past Mironovski reservoir, weel to the north of Logvinovo. The goal in that, said Tymchuk, was to force Ukrainian commanders to shift their forces away from another location to the west of the region, thus giving rebels a local tactical advantage at Svetlodarsk. However reports from the Ukrainian ministry of defense, until well after the Ukrainian attack stopped, had failed to note any artillery or direct gunfire in the area prior to June 29th.
Tymchuk said that rebel fores at Lozovoye, where the Ukrainians were stopped, were not light, and included a rifle company supported by tanks. Rebel commanders had moved additional artillery north prior to the Ukrainian attack. Tymchuk claim the amount of artillery the rebels had in reserve was close to 24 guns, and included 122mm artillery. The forces at Logvinovo had been moved up and were attacked by Ukrainian forces, apparently present at Logvinovo. Rebel forces retreated under Ukrainian fire and”friendly fire”, as he put it.
Of the two analyses, Tymchuk’s sounds much more confused that Sanin’s. Indeed Tymchuk tries to put a spin on a failed operation by noting extreme claims made in social media by unofficial sources, and not noting far more careful claims by official rebel media.
Tymchuk and Sanin both bolster notions held by this writer that neither side will be able to conduct modern mobile combat operations because of the use, nature and composition of available forces. Ukrainian commanders probably have one thing right: that engaging rebel forces in brief but intense firefights as a means of slowly and by small steps pushing the rebels south, is their best chance to win the war.
However, that presumes that rebel forces won’t hold their ground and can be forced back. At Logvinovo they held.
Chris Covert writes about foreign military issues for Rantburg.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org